Written by Sofia Ali
I’m leaving soon, take care of your Imaan.-Ramadan
Each year when I see this quote, it brings me the same sense of emptiness, sadness and longing.
Much like life, the speed at which Ramadan days pass never ceases to shock me. After coming so slowly, it ends so quickly. It shows that everything I go through, from the highest of highs to lowest of lows, will one day all come together to feel like I lived but a few days here. There’s comfort to be found in that thought, because it reminds you how the very essence of this dunya and all it contains is lack of permanence.
Ramadan is a very special gift. The joy it brings is as pure as that a child feels when slowly discovering how the smallest things in life work, or a surprise package in the post that puts the biggest smile on the face of a long distance friend, or the sight of catching a beautiful sunset from my bedroom window. In that moment, knowing that Ramadan is around the corner, there’s a sense of pure relief. Because if you’re still breathing, Allah (swt) has granted you with one of the greatest gifts of all.
Before Shaytan was locked away, his whispers tried to instil in me that anything I do isn’t and never will be enough, so why bother at all?
When I feel my mind beginning to spiral into that pit of despair, I try to pause and simply say Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah that I’m still here. Alhamdulillah for imaan, even at those times where it feels low. Alhamdulillah that Allah (swt) hasn’t given up on me just yet.
I spent a lot of time this Ramadan thinking about the power of this one phrase, Alhamdulillah, all praise be to Allah (swt). This phrase which opens the Quran, the biggest miracle we’ve been blessed with. This phrase that we recite in every single prayer, over and over again throughout each day. This phrase that we’ve been taught to say whenever something good happens, but how easily can we say it in times of struggle? How easily do we face our struggles through a lens of gratitude?
Our beloved Prophet (saw), the best of creation, did not grow up having much in terms of this dunya. Even after the Revelation and through years of constant struggle, he continued to live simply, never consuming excessively and always caring for others greatly.
When his wife asked why he would still go through so much hardship to stand in prayer and ask for repentance if Allah (swt) had already forgiven him of all sin, he would say;
‘Should I not be a thankful servant?’ (Bukhari)
This instance amidst many others throughout his life shows that our Prophet (saw) wasn’t grateful to gain something, but rather he was grateful because he couldn’t imagine responding to the all encompassing mercy of Allah (swt) in any other way. He was the epitome of perfect gratitude, something we can only strive towards.
Having the opportunity to experience Ramadan this year didn’t feel like one of certainty to me, as in the past. Growing up it’s always felt like another event that I will get to witness, not one I could be blessed with the opportunity to witness. I never really internalised the true sense of seeing Ramadan as a gift, until this year. A year where I left a job that made me unhappy, not knowing where life will take me next, where I’ve experienced loss, in ways I would least expect, where I’ve been given news I didn’t want to hear, and of course a global pandemic that’s brought its own unique trials to so many. It’s been a year full of uncertainty for me.
But with His certainty, He’s chosen me to live to see this month – another chance to clean my heart of built up dirt, and my mind of clouded thoughts. When I truly internalise that, I think differently. Instead of thinking I have to fight myself to wake up for suhoor, or grappling the idea of reaching for the neglected Quran on my bookshelf, it becomes an honour to try.
One of the biggest ways that’s helped me change my perspective during times of struggle has been to focus on what I have, not what I feel as if I’m missing. The Quran tells us that ‘verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest’ (13:28), and sometimes trials make it difficult to see that. This month what’s helped me is taking some time out each day for dhikr, and with every bead of my tasbeeh, thinking of a different blessing and saying ‘Alhamdulillah alaa kulli haal’. All praise be to Allah, in every circumstance.
When there’s so much constantly going on around you, focus within you. Start with the simple blessing of your ability to breathe. Then that of having sight. Hearing. Touch. Thought. Then of health. Love. Safety. Security. Soon you realise the list doesn’t end, that there’s so much more to be grateful for than to worry over.
Whilst Shaytan will continuously try to embed hopelessness within us, Islam instils gratitude. The beauty of this faith is that any effort is better than no effort, and He knows what’s in every heart. Just the fact that Allah (swt) has even enabled us to do any act of good this month is a huge blessing in itself – it’s a form of rizq (provision) that we should be thankful for.
But it’s okay to have moments where you fall apart or question yourself, in fact, they’re the moments in which you grow most.
There’s so much more I wanted to do this month. But even when we feel like we’re not doing enough, just having the thought of wanting to do more, to help more, to be more, is something to be grateful for, because Allah (swt) has given us those good thoughts so we’re inclined to act on them. As long as we’re blessed with Allah (swt) telling our hearts ‘Kun faya kun’, Be and it is, commanding them to beat, there’s still hope here. There’s still hope to turn it all around. It’s not about doing it all – reciting all day, praying all night – it’s about making the most of all it is that you do, especially in these last few moments. When telling us about Ramadan, the Quran says ‘Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.’ (2:185)
And He even promises us, “if you are grateful, I will surely increase you” (14:7) – that’s the infinite mercy of our Rabb.
There’s no doubt that this Ramadan has been different.
But as I think back to that quote, longing for Ramadan to stay, I pause, remembering that nothing can truly stay in this dunya.
Instead I think this. Alhamdulillah for its coming, alhamdulillah for its passing.
May the goodness of Ramadan cling to us as it bids us farewell, and may the gifts it brought our souls continue to give – ameen.
Featured photography by Nadeem Ghafur @nadeemghafur
Thank you Sofia, for not only sharing such a beautifully written representation of a merciful mindset, but for also being such a beautiful member of the Ramadan Movement Community.